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Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life

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If it weren't for mitochondria, scientists argue, we'd all still be single-celled bacteria. Indeed, these tiny structures inside our cells are important beyond imagining. Without mitochondria, we would have no cell suicide, no sculpting of embryonic shape, no sexes, no menopause, no aging. In this fascinating and thought-provoking book, Nick Lane brings together the latest If it weren't for mitochondria, scientists argue, we'd all still be single-celled bacteria. Indeed, these tiny structures inside our cells are important beyond imagining. Without mitochondria, we would have no cell suicide, no sculpting of embryonic shape, no sexes, no menopause, no aging. In this fascinating and thought-provoking book, Nick Lane brings together the latest research in this exciting field to show how our growing insight into mitochondria has shed light on how complex life evolved, why sex arose (why don't we just bud?), and why we age and die. These findings are of fundamental importance, both in understanding life on Earth, but also in controlling our own illnesses, and delaying our degeneration and death. Readers learn that two billion years ago, mitochondria were probably bacteria living independent lives and that their capture within larger cells was a turning point in the evolution of life, enabling the development of complex organisms. Lane describes how mitochondria have their own DNA and that its genes mutate much faster than those in the nucleus. This high mutation rate lies behind our aging and certain congenital diseases. The latest research suggests that mitochondria play a key role in degenerative diseases such as cancer. We also discover that mitochondrial DNA is passed down almost exclusively via the female line. That's why it has been used by some researchers to trace human ancestry daughter-to-mother, to "Mitochondrial Eve," giving us vital information about our evolutionary history. Written by Nick Lane, a rising star in popular science, Power, Sex, Suicide is the first book for general readers on the nature and function of these tiny, yet fascinating structures.


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If it weren't for mitochondria, scientists argue, we'd all still be single-celled bacteria. Indeed, these tiny structures inside our cells are important beyond imagining. Without mitochondria, we would have no cell suicide, no sculpting of embryonic shape, no sexes, no menopause, no aging. In this fascinating and thought-provoking book, Nick Lane brings together the latest If it weren't for mitochondria, scientists argue, we'd all still be single-celled bacteria. Indeed, these tiny structures inside our cells are important beyond imagining. Without mitochondria, we would have no cell suicide, no sculpting of embryonic shape, no sexes, no menopause, no aging. In this fascinating and thought-provoking book, Nick Lane brings together the latest research in this exciting field to show how our growing insight into mitochondria has shed light on how complex life evolved, why sex arose (why don't we just bud?), and why we age and die. These findings are of fundamental importance, both in understanding life on Earth, but also in controlling our own illnesses, and delaying our degeneration and death. Readers learn that two billion years ago, mitochondria were probably bacteria living independent lives and that their capture within larger cells was a turning point in the evolution of life, enabling the development of complex organisms. Lane describes how mitochondria have their own DNA and that its genes mutate much faster than those in the nucleus. This high mutation rate lies behind our aging and certain congenital diseases. The latest research suggests that mitochondria play a key role in degenerative diseases such as cancer. We also discover that mitochondrial DNA is passed down almost exclusively via the female line. That's why it has been used by some researchers to trace human ancestry daughter-to-mother, to "Mitochondrial Eve," giving us vital information about our evolutionary history. Written by Nick Lane, a rising star in popular science, Power, Sex, Suicide is the first book for general readers on the nature and function of these tiny, yet fascinating structures.

30 review for Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    The subtitle of the book says “Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life” and the author tries very hard to match up to that high claim. The book promises to show us why mitochondria are the clandestine rulers of our world - the masters of power, sex, and suicide. In the end It does not quiet explain the meaning of life in the traditional terms but does put forward a very strong argument that life as we know it today owes a lot to those little symbiotes that inhabit every single cell in us. Yes, mito The subtitle of the book says “Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life” and the author tries very hard to match up to that high claim. The book promises to show us why mitochondria are the clandestine rulers of our world - the masters of power, sex, and suicide. In the end It does not quiet explain the meaning of life in the traditional terms but does put forward a very strong argument that life as we know it today owes a lot to those little symbiotes that inhabit every single cell in us. Yes, mitochondria has moulded and given direction to life on earth - from the first eukaryotic cell to the complex animals and finally to us. Without the mitochondria in us, we wouldn’t be here to be any the wiser. Written in a lucid and conversational style, the book makes for very easy reading and even the hard concepts are put across in simple and sometimes quite entertaining style. The strength of the book is in how well planned and tied together it feels. The author knows which questions to ask when so as to lead us to the overall picture and he also knows how to deftly lead us on wrong routes so that when the real theory is revealed it has the whiff of truth to it and the pleasure of solving a detective puzzle. Keeping with the ambition of the subtitle, the book grapples with some of the toughest questions known to evolutionary science - How did life originate on earth? How did organisms generate energy then? What conditions prevailed to make it possible? Can it be replicated in other parts of the universe? What was the nature of these first experiments in life? How did they evolve? How and when did life evolve beyond the bacterial stage? What was the crucial event that helped the first eukaryotic cell to evolve? Why were eukaryotes able to evolve into large and complex organisms in a fraction of the time that life existed on earth while bacteria remained stuck in an evolutionary rut? Why are bacteria immortals and eukaryotes mortal? How did sex originate for the first time among eukaryotes and why? Why are there two sexes in most known species, unicellular or multicellular? Why did eukaryotic cell come together to form colonies and eventually multicellular organisms? Why has evolution tended towards size and complexity ever since? Why did apoptosis or cell death evolve in multicellular organisms? How is the lifespan of organisms decided? Why do we age? Why do we die? Is there a way to extend our lifespans? Can we ever be truly immortal? Can the whole process be replicated in other parts of the universe? Can there be intelligent aliens? Such are the wide variety of audacious questions asked and almost answered in this book and the astonishing thing for me was that it was not some five thousand pages longer with this sort of blindingly vast scope. And the answer to all these questions? As you might have guessed, it indeed is “Mitochondria”. How elegant that such a simple answer can be provided for such a variety of fundamental questions. One is almost tended to rekindle hope for the famous 42 now. I had a full summary of the book prepared for this review which answered one by one all those questions I listed above, but now, as I am about to post it, I realize that I would be subtracting from the gradual suspense of the book that makes it such a joy to read by doing so. Instead, I would only like to point out a few of my issues with the book: The author claims that the event of the fusion of the methanogens and the proteobacterium that gave rise to the first eukaryote is a very rare event and hence will not be replicated anywhere else in the universe, thus consigning most parts of the universe to a bacterial slime. The reason he advances for this is based on the fact that all eukaryotes derive from the same ancestor and this means that the the fusion that created this common ancestor happened only once in our entire evolutionary history. This is taken as proof concrete that the event of this eukaryotic creation/fusion is so statistically impossible that it has happened only once in the whole billions-of-years old history of the earth and that too only because it coincided with the oxygen enrichment of earth’s atmosphere at that time. This line of reasoning is then extended to argue that since this event is so rare and dependent on a number of steps one following the other, each of which are equally rare, the chances of complex life evolving anywhere else in the universe is next to zero. This is a patently wrong argument in my view. The reason why the first eukaryotes were so successful was because they were able to/forced to move into the upper reaches of the ocean since all the competition was in the depths and their new chimeric nature allowed them to survive there. Since this was a blue ocean of no competition, they were able to exploit an entire new world of resources and grew and grew and grew and took it over. It was a literal gold rush for them. Now, imagine that in another billion years, another similar chimera was formed. The first chimera had a huge advantage that they were living in a vegetarian world where no one ate any other living being. But this new chimera, if it rises above to the oxygen rich world, which is now dominated by the carnivorous old chimeras and their monstrous descendants, would find a hostile world hard to survive in and will most probably also find itself someone’s easy dinner. The chances for any new chimera to survive is almost nil in this new dog-eat dog world. So on earth the first variety dominated and culled any new competition and this is the reason why another eukaryote never evolved. It is not because the event itself is statistically so unlikely. It is because the survival of such a chimera is statistically unlikely in a world already populated by other such eukaryotes capable of competing more effectively with a new eukaryote. But, (and this is strangely overlooked by the author though it is firmly fixed in Darwinian principles) the fact that it did not happen a second time on earth in billions of years does not preclude the possibility that in another world where organisms are still primitive enough to be competing to eat external resources and not each other, a new chimera could evolve and move to uninhabited vastnesses where they would then use their eukaryotic nature to found another kingdom of life. It is entirely possible. So here is reassuring all alien buffs dejected by this book that universe has more to offer than mere bacterial slime on its menu.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lois Bujold

    Well, that was three days of dense, chewy fun that nonetheless did not quite break my teeth. If you have survived high school science, you can probably take this on and follow its arguments pretty well. Molecular biology is probably one of the fastest-moving sciences of the early twenty-first century, and in writing a popular-style book about it, Lane is in the position of a man trying to shovel his driveway while it's still snowing. He makes a statement about Neanderthal genetics on page one, fo Well, that was three days of dense, chewy fun that nonetheless did not quite break my teeth. If you have survived high school science, you can probably take this on and follow its arguments pretty well. Molecular biology is probably one of the fastest-moving sciences of the early twenty-first century, and in writing a popular-style book about it, Lane is in the position of a man trying to shovel his driveway while it's still snowing. He makes a statement about Neanderthal genetics on page one, for example, that was out-of-date almost by the time the ink was dry, but which I think constitutes fair warning that some of what follows will be speculative or outdated by new developments. The book might also be subtitled, "Everything you never knew you wanted to know about mitochondria, but really, you did." I was especially fascinated and entranced by the lucid, nearly molecule-by-molecule description of how the most fundamental of life's processes, energy generation in the mitochondria of the cell, works. This alone would make the book worth the trip. Lane follows out the consequences across all scales of size and time in a way I found as riveting as a novel. The complex and essential relationship between mitochondria and sexual division was especially interesting. I have decided it's probably a good idea to stick to reading pop sci books no more then ten years old, these days, and this one is right on the borderline; but it really makes me want to read more on the topic, to tell me how some of the mysteries discussed got worked out by their assorted detectives in the decade since. "Don't stop, tell me more! What happened next?" is a good response to a science book, I think. I read Lane's prior book, Oxygen: the Molecule that made the World a few years back, and recall enjoying it very much as well. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... Love this stuff. Ta, L.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is a fabulous book, which I recommend to everybody with a strong interest in biology. Nick Lane is a working scientist, a biochemist, with a very impressive list of publications. His articles and books, written for the non-specialist, have won many awards. The book focuses on the science, and is written almost like a detective story. Nick Lane continually asks "why" things happen the way they do. Sometimes he speculates on the answers, but he always clearly describes the logic he uses to ded This is a fabulous book, which I recommend to everybody with a strong interest in biology. Nick Lane is a working scientist, a biochemist, with a very impressive list of publications. His articles and books, written for the non-specialist, have won many awards. The book focuses on the science, and is written almost like a detective story. Nick Lane continually asks "why" things happen the way they do. Sometimes he speculates on the answers, but he always clearly describes the logic he uses to deduce his conclusions. For example, he explains why bacteria have not evolved into complex multi-cellular organisms, despite the fact that they have phenomenally high mutation rates. He explains how eukaryote cells (cells with a nucleus) evolved from simpler cells, and shows that it was not a simple, "gotta happen" occurrence. He explains how mitochondria generate power. He explains why there is sex, and why there are usually two sexes for each species. He explains why cells die. Free radicals play a large role in the death of cells and ageing, so Lane explains the reasons why mitochondria generate them. And, despite the role played by anti-oxidants, their concentrations are not correlated with longer life spans! This is not an easy book to read, for the non-specialist. But the author's clear style of writing, his obvious expertise, and his deep insights into cellular biology make this a very engaging book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Max

    Lane packs a lot of science into this excellent presentation of the origin and functioning of mitochondria. While the density may put off some readers, those with a strong interest in cell biology and evolution should enjoy it. Lane posits that symbiosis, not just natural section, is what enabled complex life to form. He points specifically to endosymbiosis, the theory that bacteria were transformed into mitochondria after being engulfed by archaea. Lane holds that unique circumstances make this Lane packs a lot of science into this excellent presentation of the origin and functioning of mitochondria. While the density may put off some readers, those with a strong interest in cell biology and evolution should enjoy it. Lane posits that symbiosis, not just natural section, is what enabled complex life to form. He points specifically to endosymbiosis, the theory that bacteria were transformed into mitochondria after being engulfed by archaea. Lane holds that unique circumstances make this a one-time event in natural history unlikely to be repeated on earth or anywhere else. Thus while he believes organisms similar to bacteria may be common in the universe, he thinks complex life far less likely. Bacteria have been with us almost 4 billion years and they are still bacteria. They have not evolved into complex organisms through natural selection because their energy production is insufficient. Eukaryotes solved this problem by harnessing mitochondria. Lane goes on to explore the role of mitochondria in eukaryotic cells and their impact on health and aging. If this stuff fascinates you, Lane makes it accessible. Following are my vastly oversimplified notes. If they leave you wanting to fill in the blanks, this book is for you. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of our cells and of the cells of all eukaryotes. Eukaryotes include animals, plants, fungi and some other organisms, all of which have cells with a nucleus. The other two domains of life are bacteria and archaea. They are far more ancient than eukaryotes which probably date back 2 billion years. Mitochondria are small, bacterial in size. One billion fit into a grain of sand. One of our cells may contain hundreds, even a thousand. There are ten million billion in the adult human body. How did they get there? How did eukaryotes evolve? An important question since Lane believes that without mitochondria life would never have passed beyond the bacterial stage. At most the earth would host a bed of slime. Without mitochondria the much larger single cell eukaryotes would not have had the energy to capture food by enveloping it (phagocytosis) or be sufficiently mobile to compete with bacteria which replicate much faster. Lane plays out several possible scenarios for how eukaryotes began. The one he believes is that a symbiotic relationship between a proteobacterium and a methane producing archaeon morphed into a single organism. He holds that this began in an anoxic environment where the bacterium produced free hydrogen for the methanogen. Eventually the bacterium was completely engulfed by the methanogen enabling the bacterium to provide energy directly to its host. The proteobacterium was also an oxygen respirator and thus enabled the archaeon, now a nascent eukaryote, to thrive in an oxygen environment. For a detailed explanation you have to read the book. What was the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) of the bacteria and archaea? Lane looks at how energy is produced to determine this and the likely origins of life. Living organisms produce energy one of three ways: respiration, photosynthesis and fermentation. Fermentation is too complex and photosynthesis came too late so respiration was the key to getting things started. He goes into quite a bit of detail about how respiration works and its reliance on proton pumping through a membrane to generate energy. He posits that life on the young earth began when volcanoes and hot springs produced alkaline liquids and the sun split water molecules leading to acidic ocean water. Bubbles formed with iron sulfur walls acting as catalysts separating the oppositely charged mediums. These structures could have been the primordial electrochemical cells which allowed amino acids to form, mix and evolve into proteins and RNA progenitors. How did mitochondria enable eukaryotes to become complex multicellular creatures while bacteria could not? In respiration, energy production is limited by the supply of raw materials and the size of the membrane along which energy can be generated. Bacteria can only feed or generate energy along their outer membranes adjacent to their cell walls. This limits their size since surface area does not increase proportionate to volume. This energy limitation also limits the genetic complexity of bacteria. Replicating genes is energy intensive slowing reproduction, a competitive disadvantage for bacteria. The imperative of replication speed also causes bacteria to throw off unneeded genes further reducing sustained genetic complexity. However, eukaryotes could grow exponentially bigger by ingesting more food, supporting new genes and other cell components simply by making more mitochondria, each of which contains a folded inner membrane for energy production. Also, mitochondria hold critical genes close to the structures for which they code proteins further increasing efficiency. The ability to increase the number of mitochondria in cells enabled the increased metabolism necessary for warm blooded animals. Increasing the mitochondria per cell also enabled large animals to develop big powerful muscles which have more mitochondria than other body cells. Mitochondria play many other roles in eukaryote development. One of the most important is apoptosis or cell suicide. This is the means by which the body gets rid of damaged cells. Apoptosis notably fails in the case of cancer. The mitochondria are the agent for apoptosis. When its own or host cell signaling indicates its time, the mitochondria releases proteins into the cell that precipitate its demise. Lane ponders about how this came to pass. Why would mitochondria kill their host and in turn themselves. Lane posits that the signals were originally for cell division so that the mitochondria could get the cell to divide so it could divide. This led to eukaryotes developing sex. Mitochondria may explain why there are two sexes. Usually only maternal mitochondria are inherited, although there are exceptions. Both sperm and egg carry their mitochondria to the fertilized egg, but in most cases the male mitochondria are eliminated. That only one mitochondrion genome is passed on to the new individual is important for an efficient working relationship between nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. Heteroplasmy, the presence of more than one mitochondrial genome in a cell, does not work well in most animals, although it is the norm in bats which thrive with it. Sexual differentiation is a means to ensure only one mitochondrial genome survives in the embryo. Why do we age? Lane believes it is free radical leakage from the mitochondrial membrane. Before popping your vitamin C and E, note that Lane is far less sanguine about the effectiveness of anti-oxidants to compensate for the leakage. The author holds that eukaryote species tend to age in relation to their metabolic rate. This nicely explains the difference between a mouse and a man. However birds have high metabolic rate and many bird species live long lives. Lane attributes this to their better control of free radical leakage. Lane goes into great detail about how all this works. It’s too complex to describe here, but if you are still reading this, its time you quit and got the book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Smellsofbikes

    This is an absolutely amazing book, one of the most informational things I've read in years. The down-side is that I found it difficult, intellectually, and I have a degree in the subject. I think if I didn't know microbiology, it would be overwhelming. But with that said, the book's focus is on the relationship between eukaryotic cells and their mitochondria. It covers two different scenarios in how archaeobacteria and bacteria may have merged to form eukaryotes (gradual symbiosis as a result o This is an absolutely amazing book, one of the most informational things I've read in years. The down-side is that I found it difficult, intellectually, and I have a degree in the subject. I think if I didn't know microbiology, it would be overwhelming. But with that said, the book's focus is on the relationship between eukaryotic cells and their mitochondria. It covers two different scenarios in how archaeobacteria and bacteria may have merged to form eukaryotes (gradual symbiosis as a result of close contact and one using waste material from the other as food, and parasitism of an archeo by a Rickettsia-like bacterium) and then goes into an extended discussion of what mitochondria do, how they do it, and how their behavior and performance drive cellular performance, programmed cell death, and metabolic feedback systems. It also spends time discussing the possibilities of how mitochondria make sexual reproduction much more attractive than cloning, how cells equipped with mitochondria can become active predators rather than just growing as quickly as possible, and how mitochondrial damage could be the primary driver in age-related cellular degeneration. It's an astounding amount of information, well-written, and while there were a few sections in which I felt there was some hand-waving, it was mostly well-grounded, well-supported, and well-referenced. Some of the material he discusses was only discovered since 2005, so it's quite up-to-date. An amazing book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tasha

    In high school I learned that mitochondria were the powerhouses of the cell. They were once a seperate entity that somehow came to live inside another. They still have their own DNA and genes, divide on their own, and manage their own interests.While all of this is technically correct, the truth is much more subtle and amazing. They are our powerhouses. They are also the defining reason we have two sexes and not one/zero (or 28,000), and they exterminate damaged and unruly cells (hence the title) In high school I learned that mitochondria were the powerhouses of the cell. They were once a seperate entity that somehow came to live inside another. They still have their own DNA and genes, divide on their own, and manage their own interests.While all of this is technically correct, the truth is much more subtle and amazing. They are our powerhouses. They are also the defining reason we have two sexes and not one/zero (or 28,000), and they exterminate damaged and unruly cells (hence the title). A side affect of cell respiration, combined with cell suicide, is probably the cause of aging and age related illness. I dislike writing long reviews even more than reading them, and this has already gone beyond my usual 0-2 sentences, but there is just a few more. Lane covers many other points, such as. The evolution of mitochondria happened just once on Earth, and took nearly 2.5 billion years for it to occur. This makes complex life on other planets less likely than I would like to believe. The book also talks about how warm blooded animals most likely evolved, and why you should never put clothes on your pet lizard. This review in no way mentions everything coverd, just a few points I found interesting. Overall a great book, though a tough read at times.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    As the title states, this work is a comprehensive review of our current understanding, c. 2005, of mitochondria, the fundamental energy source embedded in most eukaryotic cells, cells with a nucleus, the essence of all plants and animals. Even having earned a B+ in high school chemistry, this work proved challenging, for the chemical and cellular interactions involved are quite complex. The author posits that bacteria-like cells entered eukaryotes, or their predecessors, billions of years ago an As the title states, this work is a comprehensive review of our current understanding, c. 2005, of mitochondria, the fundamental energy source embedded in most eukaryotic cells, cells with a nucleus, the essence of all plants and animals. Even having earned a B+ in high school chemistry, this work proved challenging, for the chemical and cellular interactions involved are quite complex. The author posits that bacteria-like cells entered eukaryotes, or their predecessors, billions of years ago and have been living in successful symbiosis ever since. To create power and heat, mitochondria organize the transfer of both electrons and protons within our cells; they contain their own DNA, passed along exclusively through our mothers, and govern cellular health, ultimately through apoptosis, controlled cell death. In detailing the many complexities involving mitochondria, the author suggests that many health care solutions popularly imagined, particularly involving damaging free radicals—atoms or molecules with a single, unpaired electron, which apparently underlie the aging process—are far from reach, if not unreachable.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    By page 12, I've learned that an adult human hosts around 10 million billion mitochondria, which are the size of bacteria (1 to 4 microns). Mitochondria make up about 10% of our body weight! I had no idea.... By page 17, Nick Lane has outlined his case that mitochondria are the secret "masters of power, sex and suicide." Which is a *great* title. Life on Earth began perhaps 4 billion years ago, right after the Late Heavy Bombardment, or about as early as it could. It stalled at the single-cell bac By page 12, I've learned that an adult human hosts around 10 million billion mitochondria, which are the size of bacteria (1 to 4 microns). Mitochondria make up about 10% of our body weight! I had no idea.... By page 17, Nick Lane has outlined his case that mitochondria are the secret "masters of power, sex and suicide." Which is a *great* title. Life on Earth began perhaps 4 billion years ago, right after the Late Heavy Bombardment, or about as early as it could. It stalled at the single-cell bacteria stage for something like 2 billion years. Then, one bacteria engulfed another, and a most unlikely symbiosis resulted, the nucleated cell with mitochondria. All eukaryotes have mitochondria, or used to. And the symbiosis apparently only happened once. All eukaryotes, which include all multicellular life, trace their ancestry to this event, Lane says. Which may mean that “simple” one-celled life may be pretty easy to get going, and could be common on other planets. But developing from there to complex, multicellular life (like us) is hard, and seems a lot less likely. Of course, this is all based on a sample of one planet, ours -- which makes astrobiology a *very* speculative science. This is a well-written book, but it was (at times) a hard slog, since my understanding of modern biology is weak. The hardest slog was understanding how the mitochondria actually work, in detail, and I doubt I would score high on a quiz about this. But here is a reassuring quote: “Anyone who is not confused [about how mitochondria work], doesn’t understand the problem.” It’s a really Big Deal, and a good demonstration of how evolution actually works: a kludge. Intelligent Design, it’s not. Why do we have 2 sexes? Instead of (forex) 28,000, like one species of mushroom. Or 13, like a species of slime mold. Or none, like bacteria. Well, Lane argues that 2 sexes are required to make the mitochondria work right, when the organism reproduces. In mammals, anyway.… In his wind-up summary, he admits that “sex is an engma.” I see I haven’t addressed aging, degenerative diseases and death. Well, I think I’ll leave this for the book, but mitochondrial breakdowns are involved, and, Lane thinks, if we could figure out why birds live longer than mammals…. Albatrosses can live to be 150! The thing about modern biology (and most modern science): it’s *complicated*. Molecular biology is a fast-moving area, and this is a 2005 book, so it’s a bit out of date. As always, read the blurb at the top of the page first! The review to read first is Lois Bujold's: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jafar

    This isn’t really an easy read unless you already have a good background in molecular biology. Nonetheless, it’s a very fascinating subject and the author tries painstakingly to make it easier for the reader to understand the subject. Ok, so here’s my simple summary: Mitochondria: They used to be bacteria that lived independently. Then they formed a symbiotic relationship with another one-celled organism. The combination eventually evolved into eukaryotes (cells with nucleus). All complex life fo This isn’t really an easy read unless you already have a good background in molecular biology. Nonetheless, it’s a very fascinating subject and the author tries painstakingly to make it easier for the reader to understand the subject. Ok, so here’s my simple summary: Mitochondria: They used to be bacteria that lived independently. Then they formed a symbiotic relationship with another one-celled organism. The combination eventually evolved into eukaryotes (cells with nucleus). All complex life forms are made of eukaryotes. Now there are at least a few hundreds of mitochondria in each cell. Mitochondria still have kept some of their genes independent from the DNA that resides in the cell nucleus. Power: Mitochondria are our power generators. They give us energy by pumping protons across their membrane. This, needless to say, is a very complicated and interesting process that you can read about in this book. Sex: So why did most of complex living organisms evolve to have sexual reproduction? Why don’t we just make clones of ourselves? In addition to this – why should there be two sexes? Why not three or four or fifty? The answer again lies with how mitochondria manipulated their hosts in the early days of life. (Mitochondria genes come down the maternal line only. A female named Mitochondrial Eve is the common mother to all living humans. Through the mutation rate of the mitochondrial genes, she’s believed to have lived in Africa around 170,000 years ago.) Suicide: We didn’t read the fine print when we signed a pact with the mitochondria two billion years ago to exchange our goodies. In the end they kill us. The process of apoptosis (cell suicide when it’s worn out) is executed by the mitochondria. Cells that act in their own selfish interest and refuse to commit suicide result in cancer. It’s a good thing that mitochondria force old cells to kill themselves, but it’s the mitochondria that wear out cells to begin with. The Meaning of Life: Somewhere in the book Lane quotes someone that a lot of times answering the how question helps with the why question too. Instead of asking vague and dead-end questions like why we’re here, we should try to answer how we’re here. It will help with the why too (for example, if you conclude that no one created us and sent us here to accomplish a mission). Interestingly, he argues that the possibility of complex life and intelligence anywhere else in the universe is almost nil. Even if the conditions are right for simple life to evolve, it will almost certainly remain stuck in the useless bacterial form, like all the bacteria here that have remained bacteria for billions of years. The “enslavement” of mitochondria is too rare of a chance event to be expected to be repeated again. Aging: The book has a very good discussion about aging as well. Aging is caused by the release of free radicals by the mitochondria when they’re generating power. Despite what the general population has been lead to believe by businesses, a diet high in anti-oxidant (which is replacing the low-carb diet as the new fad) is useless and irrelevant to aging. However, there’s nothing in the laws of the universe that says we should age and die. Big birds, for example, live astonishingly long and healthy lives for their metabolic rate. The solution that Lane proposes to curb aging is to manipulate the number of our mitochondria to become higher in order to have a large spare capacity and reduce the amount of free radicals.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tanja Berg

    A perfectly interesting read, but absolutely not suitable as beach read. Left at about 2/3's when I started the Newsflesh trilogy instead. Two vacations later, I realize, that I'm never going to finish. The book in itself is absolutely readable and my failure to finish is not its fault. I even remember something interesting from it: mitochondria has only been incorporated into cells once during life's existence on earth. Some cells don't have mitochondria, that's true, but that's because they've A perfectly interesting read, but absolutely not suitable as beach read. Left at about 2/3's when I started the Newsflesh trilogy instead. Two vacations later, I realize, that I'm never going to finish. The book in itself is absolutely readable and my failure to finish is not its fault. I even remember something interesting from it: mitochondria has only been incorporated into cells once during life's existence on earth. Some cells don't have mitochondria, that's true, but that's because they've lost them. Since mitochondria are the cells' powerhouse, multicellular organisms cannot develop without (at least not as far as we know). Thus, it might be that multi-cellular, intelligent beings, is far rarer than would be statistically extrapolated from number of solar systems, stars and universes. If you wan't more fun tidbits of similar nature, read the book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    Reviewed for The Bibliophibian. I read this while I was preparing for one of the final exams of my biology degree, so perhaps it’s no surprise that I found it helpful in revising some of the topics (mostly apoptosis!), but also found that knowledge useful in understanding the book itself. To me, it seemed an incredibly clear and well-written account of the role of mitochondria in life and the origin of life, and I didn’t really find any major holes in it based on what I know. If you’ve read The V Reviewed for The Bibliophibian. I read this while I was preparing for one of the final exams of my biology degree, so perhaps it’s no surprise that I found it helpful in revising some of the topics (mostly apoptosis!), but also found that knowledge useful in understanding the book itself. To me, it seemed an incredibly clear and well-written account of the role of mitochondria in life and the origin of life, and I didn’t really find any major holes in it based on what I know. If you’ve read The Vital Question, then a lot of the ideas in it aren’t new — but of course, that makes sense, since The Vital Question is a more recent book by the same author. And since this is pop science, I should add that you don’t need the biology degree to understand it. It might be slower going and less like pleasure reading if you don’t have a solid background in science, but it should work at that level too. I do roll my eyes a little bit at the title, which is obviously drumming up excitement by sounding provocative and then like a self-help book, but hey, maybe it’s persuaded someone on the fence to pick it up just through sounding a bit unusual for the section it’s in. It’s worth picking up, definitely.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Kay Silva

    Flipping brilliant! Finally someone writes something decent and meaningful about Mitochondria. It's like five hundred unanswered small questions about how things work (or may have worked) on a basic level just clicked into place. Being that I also have a massive obsession with evolution and have always found this smaller scale to be a bit sticky this book really ticks all the boxes! Nick Lane really gets his audience. I read a lot of popular science, and I know a number of people who do likewise Flipping brilliant! Finally someone writes something decent and meaningful about Mitochondria. It's like five hundred unanswered small questions about how things work (or may have worked) on a basic level just clicked into place. Being that I also have a massive obsession with evolution and have always found this smaller scale to be a bit sticky this book really ticks all the boxes! Nick Lane really gets his audience. I read a lot of popular science, and I know a number of people who do likewise- we are seekers of knowledge! Why do popular science books so often play around speculating and history writing instead of just telling us how the darn stuff works! Its like if you bought a book about radios and it told you all the great history of radio invention and radio uses etc. but never actually told you anything about how they do what they do, or didn't explain radio waves or help you make that connection. Nick Lane is really wonderful at doing this with the subject of biology without turning it into a text manual. Actually Nick PLEASE write textbooks! Maybe we would get more out of our education system. Thank you so much for the wonderful presentation and helping us glimpse the beautiful mitochondrial complexity that makes up so much of our biological world and how that significant structure in many ways helped build it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Brown

    An extremely informative book about the role of mitochondria in evolution. The author explains complex concepts in terms that make them very understandable. I came away learning a vast amount about the function of mitochondria and in the process quite a few of the scientific factoids that float around the diet research world about antioxidants, exercise, and uncoupling started to make sense. This isn't a one idea book, like so many science bestsellers. You'll have to read it slowly and carefully An extremely informative book about the role of mitochondria in evolution. The author explains complex concepts in terms that make them very understandable. I came away learning a vast amount about the function of mitochondria and in the process quite a few of the scientific factoids that float around the diet research world about antioxidants, exercise, and uncoupling started to make sense. This isn't a one idea book, like so many science bestsellers. You'll have to read it slowly and carefully, but when you're done you will feel like you've taken--and done well in--an entire college course. The author is so brilliant, reading his word made me long to meet him in person, and that isn't something that happens ever day. The combination of so felicitous a style and so masterful a grasp of science is very rare. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in evolutionary biology or metabolism.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Irena

    "Power, Sex, Suicide" -- quite a lurid title, worthy of pulp fiction. Well, then there is the second line "Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life". It's a book written by a biologist about everything the modern science knows about mitochondria and its important role in life, death, and everything in between. And alternative title could be "All the Roads Lead to Mitohondria". It's not an easy-peasy popular biology book for laymen. Nick Lane is a scientist, not a journalist. He doesn't write to enter "Power, Sex, Suicide" -- quite a lurid title, worthy of pulp fiction. Well, then there is the second line "Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life". It's a book written by a biologist about everything the modern science knows about mitochondria and its important role in life, death, and everything in between. And alternative title could be "All the Roads Lead to Mitohondria". It's not an easy-peasy popular biology book for laymen. Nick Lane is a scientist, not a journalist. He doesn't write to entertain. It's a rather serious and ponderous book about biology, for laymen and scientists alike. Basic concepts are explained, but nothing is dumbed down, although lots of the technicalities are purposefully left beyond the scope of this book. I listened to an audio version, and as my knowledge of biology is extremely shallow (to put it mildly), I found myself frequently pressing the replay button. Still, some of it went over my head, and a lot was promptly forgotten. But that's my fault, not the author's. I enjoyed Nick Lane's dry wit and his passionate attitude to all things mitochondria (and biology in general, of course). My most important and interesting takeaway from this book is the notion of how complex the fabric of life is, how our scientific knowledge about it is constantly evolving, and how what we are used to read about it in mass media is often based on oversimplification.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    [11/17/2012; edited 12/11/12] This was a fascinating book. As a severe non-scientist, I sometimes had a little trouble wading through the detailed explanation of how cells work. I sometimes got frustrated with the level of detail, wanting to get the bigger picture. And sometimes he explained the same thing in several different ways, with different metaphors, and different approaches. But it was worth it. I don't know the author's background, but I felt he was like a particularly committed teacher, [11/17/2012; edited 12/11/12] This was a fascinating book. As a severe non-scientist, I sometimes had a little trouble wading through the detailed explanation of how cells work. I sometimes got frustrated with the level of detail, wanting to get the bigger picture. And sometimes he explained the same thing in several different ways, with different metaphors, and different approaches. But it was worth it. I don't know the author's background, but I felt he was like a particularly committed teacher, who is determined that all of his students will truly understand what it is he's saying and he will make whatever effort is necessary to accomplish that. And he did it without being pedantic or patronizing, or even boring, really. I don't say that I will remember all the detail, but I believe he managed to make me understand while I was reading ... even though sometimes I had to stop to digest and take a break. Definitely worth reading if you're at all interested in cell biology or evolution.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    Everything a general reader would like to know about the origins of (complex) life, and why we might owe it all to mitochondria. Nick Lane managed to make sometimes-dense 321 pages a joy to read. The writing is smart, engaging and entertaining. This is, along The Selfish Gene, probably one of best science books I've ever read. Everything a general reader would like to know about the origins of (complex) life, and why we might owe it all to mitochondria. Nick Lane managed to make sometimes-dense 321 pages a joy to read. The writing is smart, engaging and entertaining. This is, along The Selfish Gene, probably one of best science books I've ever read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jose Moa

    The pass from procariota to eucariota very difficult ocurring only once in our planet , another argument in favor of our loneliness in this wonderful and ill preserved planet

  18. 5 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    i wish my library had this :(

  19. 4 out of 5

    Gy

    "The link between life and death hinges on the subcellular location of a single molecule. Nothing in biology quite compares with this two-faced Janus: life, looking one way, death the other, the difference between the two but a few millionths of a milimetre." Lane, Nick. Power, Sex, Suicide (Oxford Landmark Science) (p. 309). Sometimes you just have no idea where to start from, because the book you've just closed is craving for second read, and as you start your review writing you feel you'd rath "The link between life and death hinges on the subcellular location of a single molecule. Nothing in biology quite compares with this two-faced Janus: life, looking one way, death the other, the difference between the two but a few millionths of a milimetre." Lane, Nick. Power, Sex, Suicide (Oxford Landmark Science) (p. 309). Sometimes you just have no idea where to start from, because the book you've just closed is craving for second read, and as you start your review writing you feel you'd rather crawling back for more,..to inhale it all again with one more breath, one more read. So what on Earth is so exciting in this Lane book again? You have here some genesis, some cosmology, some deep past biochemistry theories with historic overview of dedicated people devising how the story about of us started from bacteria and some archaic single cell creatures, revealing the roots of the deep dichotomy that actually took place when the first two, by nature, very different creatures met by chance a billions of years ago during a predatory event, and one swallowed another, but the victim had enough time to prevent the predator from digesting it by accommodating into the predator's inner space, and then by using the predator's metabolic system started to do something to it that will forever keep these creatures together and change the planet irreversibly - they will be born and they will die together through the millennia...digitally speaking! I can't get rid of this "digital" idea, for the reason that the mindless predator would yet be some kind of "0" (zero) or OFF, without swallowing the mitochondria that gave the start...the light, the "1" ONE, the ON! Well, here is what's so charming in a Lane book - the story and the author's skills to tell it and unfold it. If the big bang was the start of condensing the material world from the energy, the big deceleration that transformed the huge amount of energy of speed of light into visible mass, then the first switch on of the mitochondria to the host cell, meant the start of the real life...and the final death, as we know it today. The two separate genomes living in symbiosis is the form they live even today in all living beings and in us as well. What is common to humans, animals, vegetables...and also to fungi is the powerful alien, the ruler of the life and death - the mitochondria that gave possibility to the rise of the life here on Earth. It is the ON switch, the ONE, that gives the meaning to the OFF, to the Zero. There's something so dramatic, so funny in same time in the concept of the heavenly engineering. The Lane book, as always, is full of knowledge, distinct beauty of language and eloquence. I don't really think the future reader will have to has some strong understanding of biochemistry to fathom the basics this book was intended to convey. I'd recommend it to all those that like to wonder about the genesis and meaning of the life. To Mr. Lane - thank you Sir, it was a joy reading your book again! Cheers!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I've always liked mitochondria ever since reading A Wind In The Door. Power Sex Suicide is an incredibly dense but fascinating book that makes the fantasies of that fiction book seem tame. Nick Lane contends that mitochondria are responsible for all life more advanced that bacteria, for sex, for cell death, for aging and death. It is also the first time I've had to think about redox reactions since high school chemistry (fortunately, it wasn't as hard as it was back then). The scope of his claims I've always liked mitochondria ever since reading A Wind In The Door. Power Sex Suicide is an incredibly dense but fascinating book that makes the fantasies of that fiction book seem tame. Nick Lane contends that mitochondria are responsible for all life more advanced that bacteria, for sex, for cell death, for aging and death. It is also the first time I've had to think about redox reactions since high school chemistry (fortunately, it wasn't as hard as it was back then). The scope of his claims are breathtaking but they are grounded (for the most part) in well-established science. This is definitely one of the best science popularizations I've read in a very very very long time.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mike Potter

    A book about endosymbiotic theory. It was long suspected that eukaryotic cells were the result of a bacterial merger. However, the theory wasn't widely known until Lynn Marguilis's 1967 paper. The evidence that mitochondria come from bacterial ancestry includes: -mitochondria posses their own genome -antibiotics can affect translation in bacteria as well as mitochondria -new mitochondria are formed via a process similar to binary fission. -mitochondria have several enzymes and transport systems simi A book about endosymbiotic theory. It was long suspected that eukaryotic cells were the result of a bacterial merger. However, the theory wasn't widely known until Lynn Marguilis's 1967 paper. The evidence that mitochondria come from bacterial ancestry includes: -mitochondria posses their own genome -antibiotics can affect translation in bacteria as well as mitochondria -new mitochondria are formed via a process similar to binary fission. -mitochondria have several enzymes and transport systems similar to those of bacteria Author Nick Lane supports the "hydrogen hypothesis" model in this book. According to this model, a facultative anaerobic bacteria was engulfed by a hydrogen dependent, methane producing archea bacteria roughly 2 billion years ago. The hypothesis provides an explanation for the observation that eukaryotes have genes reflecting both archaeal and eubacterial ancestry.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Niveditha R

    Excellent book! However, it requires a background in biology or at least a vague understanding of cellular physiology. My expertise lies in a related field although I have been highly interested in evolutionary biology ever since I read The Selfish Gene. Every author of similar science books has a different take on various aspects of life on earth as we know it, and this is what makes reading them so compelling (albeit confusing!) The first 20% of the book was the best part where Lane describes Excellent book! However, it requires a background in biology or at least a vague understanding of cellular physiology. My expertise lies in a related field although I have been highly interested in evolutionary biology ever since I read The Selfish Gene. Every author of similar science books has a different take on various aspects of life on earth as we know it, and this is what makes reading them so compelling (albeit confusing!) The first 20% of the book was the best part where Lane describes the endosymbiotic relationship between bacteria that later evolved into eukaryocytes and mitochondria. I found myself a little befuddled with the math in the middle chapters explaining metabolic rates and size of living creatures. But each section was nicely summarized at the end, so I got the gist of the concepts involved.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Arminius

    The book centers around Mitochondria. Mitochondria are rod-shaped organelles that can be considered the power generators of the cell, converting oxygen and nutrients into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the chemical energy "currency" of the cell that powers the cell's metabolic activities. Science is working on figuring out how to cure cancers and other diseases by tapping into the Mitochondria. Free radicals attack and distort mitochondria. Supplements do not stop free radicals according t The book centers around Mitochondria. Mitochondria are rod-shaped organelles that can be considered the power generators of the cell, converting oxygen and nutrients into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the chemical energy "currency" of the cell that powers the cell's metabolic activities. Science is working on figuring out how to cure cancers and other diseases by tapping into the Mitochondria. Free radicals attack and distort mitochondria. Supplements do not stop free radicals according to Nick Lane, the author. They do however fill a nutritional deficit if necessary. He discuses many diseases but offers no cures. So it is a mildly interesting book for a science geek, like myself, but not very exciting,

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sheng Peng

    It's so amazing and covers so much about origin of life that it feels like a scientific bible. And it's such an entertaining book that it reads like a bestselling production by Gladwell yet is based on facts and not yanked out of the author's ass. Highly recommended. It's so amazing and covers so much about origin of life that it feels like a scientific bible. And it's such an entertaining book that it reads like a bestselling production by Gladwell yet is based on facts and not yanked out of the author's ass. Highly recommended.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book was dense and difficult, but I feel like I learned a semester’s worth of material in 300 pages. Absolutely fascinating and illuminating. Very highly recommended!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Asvin

    Great book! The book is wonderfully detailed and complicated (in a good way). Given the intricate subject matter, I found it wonderfully clear, like a good detective story. After all, any science is at it's heart, a detective story! The epilogue is a great summary of the entire book and I might be returning to it to refresh myself in a year's time. Notes for myself: The energy pump The mitochondria (and chloroplast) generate energy in a similar way to a hydroelectric dam by pumping electrons to gene Great book! The book is wonderfully detailed and complicated (in a good way). Given the intricate subject matter, I found it wonderfully clear, like a good detective story. After all, any science is at it's heart, a detective story! The epilogue is a great summary of the entire book and I might be returning to it to refresh myself in a year's time. Notes for myself: The energy pump The mitochondria (and chloroplast) generate energy in a similar way to a hydroelectric dam by pumping electrons to generate a proton gradient across their cell membrane. This gradient is used for lots of things, perhaps most importantly, to generate ATP in the ATPase situated along the cell wall. What role does the cell wall play? In prokaryotes, it is essential to maintain a proton gradient by keeping the outside of the cell acidic in order to generate energy (and ATP), among other functions. In eukaryotes, this is done by the mitochondria so there is no need for a cell wall. Why do bacteria have so many genes and are so small compared to eukaryotes? Energy produced is proportional to surface area so want small size. In the case of eukaryotes, they can just increase the number of mitochondria! Also, bacteria replicate very quickly under high selective pressure so need to minimize genes (the negatives of which are counteracted by lateral gene transfer). In the case of eukaryotes, they can out compete by predation opportunities afforded by the greater size and versatility. Sex and aging Sex and aging are similar and are both mechanisms to repair faulty genes and cells respectively. When cell fusion happens, the genes in the nucleus recombine but what about the mitochondrial genes? They have to be matched to the genes in the nucleus so it's easier to just keep one copy which is why only females pass down the mitochondria. This is also why it's easiest to only have two sexes. Free radical theory of aging Free radical leak happens in the process of the electron pump. These free radicals are used to control the production of energy and maintain the health of mitochondria from the nucleus but free radicals also cause mitochondrial dna to mutate over time which damages them. The cell reacts to this by killing the mitochondria that are damaged past a limit and boosting the production of the others. However, over time all the mitochondria might be damaged beyond saving and in this case the body has no choice but to terminate the cell. This leads to tissue damage and causes degenerative diseases. To fix this, the best thing would be to slow down the leak of free radicals. This can be done for instance by creating higher demand for energy so that the pump works smoothly which explains why athletes are fitter and age slower.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    (4.0) Interesting exploration of the origin of life, especially eukaryotes At times Lane seems to get a little too mitochondria-specific (e.g. claiming that many early miscarriages are due to incompatibility between nuclear and mitochondrial genes, arguing that sperm cells have few mitochondria because the mitochondria will be killed upon fertilization and not able to reproduce--but ALL male mitochondria will die...in fact the ONLY hope for a male's mitochondria to be passed on is through fertili (4.0) Interesting exploration of the origin of life, especially eukaryotes At times Lane seems to get a little too mitochondria-specific (e.g. claiming that many early miscarriages are due to incompatibility between nuclear and mitochondrial genes, arguing that sperm cells have few mitochondria because the mitochondria will be killed upon fertilization and not able to reproduce--but ALL male mitochondria will die...in fact the ONLY hope for a male's mitochondria to be passed on is through fertilization and the unlikely event that one or some will survive, which is interestingly a key discussion point in the book). But aside from that, very informative exploration of possible origins of life and the emergence of the eukaryotes from bacteria and archaea. Well told and justified. I learned a lot from reading this (e.g. role mitochondria play in apoptosis--not sure how I never learned about all that). However, I don't imagine that complex life is as unlikely an event as Lane suggests (if I'm reading correctly, he's suggesting earth's complex life is very likely unique in the universe because of the unlikely sequence of events that led to the emergence of the eukaryotes (he of course considers the incorporation of mitochondria to be the critical step here)). Quick summary of the hypothesis: very primitive "cells" formed of particular mixing of HS at the bottom of the oceans, providing selection pressure for proton-driven ATP generators, eventually leading to archaea. Bacteria good at digesting methane, providing hydrogen, so some archaea and bacteria became symbiants, attaching to one another, until eventually archaea surrounded bacteria which eventually became mitochondria and allowed surrounding cell access to ATP. Honorable mention: suggests that apoptosis triggered by mitochondria makes sense if it were originally a signal for outer cell to engage in sexual reproduction in times of cellular stress which was adapted into destruction of the cell after the advent of multicellular organisms. It sounds crazy, but is well reasoned and makes biology seem even cooler than it was when I was in high school.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Abi Ghifari

    Mitochondria are merely known as the powerhouse of the cell but here in this book, mitochondria are shown to actually be a lot more than meets the eye. Nick Lane explores the wonders of mitochondria, the master puppeteer of power, sex, and suicide. Strongly hypothesized to arise from a symbiosis between oxygen-consuming bacteria and archaea, the mitochondrion has baffled scientists for a long time for its pivotal roles in eukaryotic cells. Not only to generate ATP, the energy currency of all life Mitochondria are merely known as the powerhouse of the cell but here in this book, mitochondria are shown to actually be a lot more than meets the eye. Nick Lane explores the wonders of mitochondria, the master puppeteer of power, sex, and suicide. Strongly hypothesized to arise from a symbiosis between oxygen-consuming bacteria and archaea, the mitochondrion has baffled scientists for a long time for its pivotal roles in eukaryotic cells. Not only to generate ATP, the energy currency of all life forms, but also its intervention in the rise of sex, aging, and apoptosis—the cell’s programmed suicide. Lane even argues that the mitochondrial engulfment gave rise to the formation of the nucleus and is a driving force for eukaryotes: plants, fungi, animals, and us humans, to emerge. Lane describes the probable and improbable of theories crafted by numerous quintessential scientists in answering big questions about mitochondria. Lane carefully curates important observations and landmark studies explaining various range of hypotheses from seemingly different areas such as bacterial symbiosis, chemiosmosis, ATP synthesis, evolutionary cell biology, cellular signalling, and mitochondrial genomics. But don’t worry about those difficult topics as Lane presents them in a colloquial way that encourages readers to follow along the stories. He also smartly uses metaphors and analogies in explaining those studies, even uses pop-culture references like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings which relate with lay audiences. This book is also highly engaged as it challenges readers whether they are able to recall some explanations in previous chapters. Overall, Power, Sex, Suicide is a comprehensive and eloquent piece of science writing with a narration that is vividly described, captivating, and engaging, which is surprising for a book that meticulously explains mitochondria in detail. At the end, we may also take notes on why mitochondria generate power for us and give rise to the blooming eukaryotic life, but it’s also them that make us suffer in our last days.

  29. 4 out of 5

    José Luís Fernandes

    This book is a nice trip through many issues of Biology like the origin of life and the eukaryotic cells, the appearance of multicelular cells, the ways how energy is produced by the cells and the rise of sex, ageing and death in eukaryotic beings (just to say a few subjects), all from the perspective of small organelles called mitochondria. It's a wonderful and well-written work that attempts to see all these issues from new perspectives and popularizes many theories like the hydrogen hypothes This book is a nice trip through many issues of Biology like the origin of life and the eukaryotic cells, the appearance of multicelular cells, the ways how energy is produced by the cells and the rise of sex, ageing and death in eukaryotic beings (just to say a few subjects), all from the perspective of small organelles called mitochondria. It's a wonderful and well-written work that attempts to see all these issues from new perspectives and popularizes many theories like the hydrogen hypothesis. The author is very careful in his analyzis, his explanations are excellent (especially considering the fact the study of most of such themes is relatively recent in the History of science and their complexity), while his bibliography is surely a wonderland for those wanting to read more on the subject. The work reviewed here surely refreshed my high school Biology and I learned many details from it like the use of proton-motive force in many bacterias to make materials get in or out of the cell instead of the use of ATP. It may be a bit "mitochondriacentric", nonetheless the author is very reasonable in his conclusions and I think reading this book is completely worth it despite the sensationalist (and somewhat crappy) title.

  30. 4 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    The reviews of Jafar and Tasha on this book are excellent, so I recommend reading them for very clear summaries about what the subject is. The book is written for a general reader who has some science education, but one must have a 12th grade reading level, not the usual 8th grade level most books aim for these days. The book literally fills in the blanks that are left out of science magazine articles on the cell. Along the way, as the processes of the cell are described, some bigger philosophic The reviews of Jafar and Tasha on this book are excellent, so I recommend reading them for very clear summaries about what the subject is. The book is written for a general reader who has some science education, but one must have a 12th grade reading level, not the usual 8th grade level most books aim for these days. The book literally fills in the blanks that are left out of science magazine articles on the cell. Along the way, as the processes of the cell are described, some bigger philosophical existential issues are given biological solutions that seem very reasonable to me. The author makes the argument for the shape of life being the result of the functioning of the mitochondria, apparently an accident of evolution. Although there is both science fact and science conjecture intertwined in each chapter, the author makes obvious what all the arguments over the facts are by including important conversations scientists are having, including his own educated surmises and conclusions.

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